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The US, Eh?

Occasionally, if there’s a lot on my mind, I go through short bouts of insomnia.

I say insomnia – it’s more being unable to sleep for more than three hours, lying in bed for what seems like eternity just letting random thoughts come and go at lightning speed.

I read once that if you can’t sleep, it’s better to try and engage with something until you really do feel tired and then have another go. Sometimes this will mean sticking on a podcast, sometimes reading a book, sometimes I put Night Shift on my iPhone and read memes until I’ve lost so many brain cells I can’t count to ten anymore.

Last night, as I lay in bed, rolling about and unable to sleep, I remembered that the first Presidential Debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden was taking place. Given that my body wanted to start tap-dancing more than go to sleep, I thought I’d stick it on. Two old men arguing about politics – just my kind of sleep-inducing content.

I have watched a cat run onto an A-road and get run over three times in a row.

I would rather have watched that again than the debate.

My God, I would rather have been the cat.

Trump v Biden : The Cleveland Clusterf*ck

The backdrop to this first in a series of three Presidential debates had Biden in a strong(ish) position. The latest “Presidency-ending” calamity to befall the Trump administration was the discovery by the New York Times that Trump had paid just $750 a year in income tax during the first years of his Presidency.

Al Capone, eat your trilby.

On the back of the US’s abysmal COVID management, the neverending allegations of Trump’s ties with Russia, and especially Trump’s anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric, this meant that Trump was the underdog going into the debate. Nearly all polls gave Biden a single-point national lead ahead of the Art of the Deal “author”.

Trump has little to no desire to talk about policy, but instead whips up nationalist rhetoric to aid his cause and give vigour to his supporters. His only goal last night was to get under Biden’s skin, make him show his age (Biden, 77, is older than John Major), and generally add that Trump sparkle to proceedings, which is to say: pour a big bag of hot turds all over it.

And by God did he.

The “debate” was excrutiating to watch. Trump, according to CBS news, tried to cut Biden off 73 times. The format, two uninterrupted minutes each followed by “open discussion” on each topic, was flatly ignored by Trump, who gaily kept weighing in to disrupt Biden with things you’d hear from the playground bully who’d been kicked in the head by a horse when they were little.

Chris Wallace, the moderator, had a torrid time. You could see the genuine panic in his eyes as he realised that he was having to shout down the President of the United States like he was a misbehaving child. Trump, in his indefatigably horrendous way, refused to let anyone’s voice but his be heard, and Wallace, despite his protestations, largely failed to shut the candyfloss-haired, cyst-in-a-suit up. Biden himself eventually snapped, saying “Will you shut up, man?”

Incidentally, because the world is now beyond the point of saving, this has now been made into a t-shirt.

It was an unedifying, incoherent and aggressive tyre-fire. And it was the first of three.

God have mercy.

Who “Won”?

Biden. Just. But that’s like saying he won a naked jelly-wrestling match because the other guy tripped over his own feet and drowned in the jelly. No-one came out of it with much dignity.

Biden started off shakily, clearly rattled by Trump’s bravado. He muddled words, got the concept of millions vs thousands wrong on multiple occasions, and was actually incohrent at times. But, towards the end, he rallied, and managed to get some salient points across, directly looking down the camera and speaking to the American people.

Trump, on the other hand, will think that he won because hE tAlKeD lOuDeSt AnD aRe NoW sOoPeR pReSiDeNt. But, in reality, some of his bravado could cause some him some problems in the run-up to the election.

Challenged directly on his tax returns, he said that he paid “millions in taxes,” avoiding the specific issue of income tax. The NYT wouldn’t have run the story unless they were damn sure they’d found something that would stick, so this could come back to bite him.

But then, most of the things that should have come back to bite him in the past seem to have come back and bitten a chunk off, only to watch in horror as it immediately regenerates like a bloated mutant from a knock-off anime.

Perhaps the biggest own-goal Trump smashed in from three yards out with a perfect back-heel volley was refusing to condemn white supremacists. The “Proud Boys”, the anti-ANTIFA group of racists and knuckleheads, are ardent Trump supporters. Never mind the fact that they’ve named themselves like an 1970s LGBT disco-troupe, these are the thugs who turn up to BLM protests armed with assault rifles, Confederate flags and bucketloads of fascist intent.

Trump was given the opportunity to condemn them, but instead told them to “stand down and stand by.”

This, within the context of the final topic of debate, postal voting, suggests that the November elections might be even more horrific than we think.

Going Postal

Given that the coronavirus is tearing through the US like a firenado through a cornfield (yes, firenados are a thing), Biden has been urging people to use their postal vote rather than turn up in person. You know, so as to avoid further unnecessary deaths, protect the elderly, yadda yadda yadda.

Trump, by contrast, doesn’t care much for postal voting, not least because he knows that it gives the Democrats the best chance to oust him from power. There has been considerable toing and froing on the subject – Trump laid accusations of postal ballot boxes going missing and being dumped in rivers. Biden countered with claims from Trump’s own civil servants that it’s actually perfectly safe to do a postal vote.

Biden used the last few moments of the debate to encourage people to vote as early as possible, whereas Trump claimed, again, that postal voting was going to cause a “mass conspiracy” and that it would be a “crooked” result. Additionally, postal voting takes far longer to count, so while either side might claim victory on November the 3rd, it might take quite a while for that victory to actually be verified.

And, with Trump’s Proud Little Bois “on standby”, there is every reason to suggest that if Trump loses, he will simply refuse to allow it to happen. Given his nature, is it really so extreme to suggest that he might call upon his hillbilly army to prevent a democratic outcome?

Having watched the debate last night, I’m sorry to say that I think there’s every chance he’ll do it. The US may well see violence on its streets after an election. Democracy itself will be at stake.

What a mess America is in.

It almost makes me want to give Boris a hug.

It’s good to be back! Between the Lines has been away for quite some time due to a number of factors, but we’re going to do our best to be semi-regular again. There’s plenty to talk about and plenty to be angry about, but try to stay positive – we’ll all survive this mess yet.

If you have any topics that you’d like to see written about or explained, then please do get in touch.

With love to you and yours,

Matt, Between the Lines